Although not usually life threatening, allergies in dogs do cause great discomfort to the dogs as well as a lot of anxiety to pet parents.
Are you a dog parent? Want to know the best dog food for allergies? You’re in the right place. And in a moment, we will show you everything you need to know about dog allergies!
But first, would you be surprised if I told you that dog allergies and food intolerances in dogs may not be as common as people think?
Food allergies affect just 0.2 percent of dogs and 0.1 percent of cats, according to the most up to date State of Pet Health Report from Banfield Pet Hospital. The Banfield research team analyzed data from over 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats across Banfield hospitals for the groundbreaking research.
The study focused on the prevalence of various allergic conditions in pets in the U.S. and found the following:
- Flea allergy has been on the rise over the past 10 years, with a 12.5 percent increase in dogs and a 67.3 percent increase in cats.
- Environmental allergies are also on an upward trend, with a 30.7 percent increase in dogs and an 11.5 percent increase in cats over the past decade.
The Banfield study is corroborated by another research by BMC Veterinary Research. This suggests that among dogs presented to their veterinarian for any diagnosis, the prevalence of adverse food reactions relating to or affecting the skin was 1 to 2%, and among those with skin diseases, it ranged between 0 and 24%.
Although you may not agree with the research findings, here is something we all do agree on…
Not Life-Threatening, But Anxiety Inducing
And although not usually life threatening, allergies in dogs do cause great discomfort to the dogs as well as a lot of anxiety to the pet parents.
Interestingly, though, dog allergies are no respecter of pedigree.
Here’s what I mean.
According to VCA Hospitals, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority of affected dogs over age one or two.
In this article, we will take a look at the best dog food for allergies.
But first, what are allergies and what the symptoms of dog allergies?
Dog Allergies and Symptoms
An allergy is an over reaction or hypersensitivity of the immune system to an allergen. Most allergens or common triggers of allergies are proteins from animals, insects, plants or foods generally. Allergies are caused when the immune system mistakes a safe and non-toxic substance for something sinister or harmful. This causes the cells to release histamines or compounds that lead to allergic reactions.
In general, most dog allergies are pretty much flea related, environmental in nature or dietary related. In dogs that have a food allergy, the allergen tends invariably to be a protein particularly those from beef, lamb and chicken.
As a dog parent, the best thing you can do your dog with allergies is to take them to the Vet. The Vet can then undertake a proper diagnosis and have a proper treatment regime implemented for your pet.
Symptoms of dog allergies
Quite naturally, the symptoms of allergies in dogs would usually vary depending on causation. However, according to the American Kennel Club, the following symptoms in your dog could be a sign of an allergic reaction:
- Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
- Red, inflamed skin
- Itchy ears
- Chronic ear infections
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Constant licking
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) put it best, when it said, “it’s hard to tell if there are more itchy dogs and cats than ever or if it just seems that way because more pet owners have realized that itchiness in pets is not the norm—and is treatable.”
Here is the truth, the pet truth, and nothing but the truth. There is more awareness among pet parents that itchiness and other symptoms of dog allergies are not the norm, but more importantly, that they are treatable. They are therefore seeking help for their pets.
And to help us discuss the best dog food with allergies, best dog food for allergies and related matters, we spoke to Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM.
First, let’s meet Dr. Ochoa.
Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM
Veterinarian Consultant for DogLab.Com
Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, is a small animal and exotic veterinarian in Texas and a veterinary consultant for DogLab.Com
Dr. Ochoa tells us the main type of allergies she sees in dogs are fleas, environment, and food allergies.
In relation to how common dog allergies or food intolerances in dogs are, Dr. Ochoa say they are seen in about 10 to 15% of her dog allergy patients. She says, “Many times these go undiagnosed due to the signs that we see. Many times dogs will have a mild ear infection. These can easily be treated a few times a year without food trials or allergy testing being done.”
In answer to the question of the best dog food for dogs with allergies, Dr. Ochoa advises that the best food is one that contains a protein that is different from some of the things that they are normally eating. This is usually a rabbit, venison, or duck.
Wanting to know more about the best dog food for allergies, we asked Dr. Ochoa, the difference between dog food allergies and dog food intolerances.
According to her, “Dog food allergies are when your dog is allergic to the ingredients found in the food and has an allergic response to these foods. Dogs with food intolerance are when their body does not tolerate these ingredients. Most dogs with food intolerance will have diarrhea or gas.”
Ask the Vet: Q&A on the Best Dog Food For Allergies.
Now to our Q&A session.
The questions here are taken from the ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA) boxes on Google. They represent real questions that are frequently asked by anxious pet owners who want to know everything about the best dog food for allergies.
For the Q&A, we reached out to Dr. Oscar Chevez, BVetMed, MRCVS, MBA. However, before we dive into the Q&A, let’s meet Dr. Chevez.
Dr. Oscar Chavez, BVetMed, MRCVS, MBA
Chief Medical Officer, JustFoodsForDogs
Dr. Oscar Chavez, BVetMed, MRCVS, MBA, is professor of veterinary clinical nutrition, Chief Medical Office of JustFoodForDogs and author of Big Kibble (St. Martin’s Press, Dec. 2020)
Question #1: What’s the difference between Limited ingredient diets and Hypoallergenic dog foods?
These are similar and can overlap. When dogs are allergic to an ingredient or ingredients in their food, they are often given a limited ingredient diet. The theory is that if the dog is highly reactive to multiple ingredients in his food, then limiting the number of those ingredients (i.e.: variables) can reduce the likelihood of a reaction. Hypoallergenic dog foods are diets that are formulated to be less allergenic.
These can included limited ingredient, novel protein diets, or hydrolyzed protein diets. Hydrolyzed proteins are common proteins (i.e.: chicken, soy, etc.) that are chemically processed (altered) to prevent detection and reactivity by the immune system. Because these proteins are altered, sometimes they are not as palatable as whole novel proteins.
Question #2: What food is best for dogs with itchy skin?
It depends on what is causing the itchiness. If it’s fleas, for example – then the dog must be put on an effective flea prevention. General foods that can help maintain a healthy coat and skin include whole food diets (minimally processed, fresh prepared), enriched with omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids like linoleic acid (animal and vegetable oils) and EPA and DHA (fish oil).
Question #3: How can you tell if your dog is allergic to food?
The best way is to work with your veterinarian to do a proper diet elimination trial. There are no accurate blood, saliva, or lab tests to diagnose food allergy. A diet elimination trial is a strict 8-12 week trial on a limited ingredient, novel protein diet or hypoallergenic diet. This must exclude all treats and extras as well.
Question #4: What are the worst dogs for allergies?
All dogs can acquire environmental or food allergies. But some breeds seem to present more frequently for allergies. These can include Shar-peis, pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, breeds with excessive skinfolds or inbreeding, some pitbulls, and can include any breed.
Question #5: What is the most common allergy in dogs?
By far the most common allergy is flea allergy dermatitis. Almost every dog can develop a flea allergy if they are not effectively prevented. This is where their skin flares beyond the typical itchiness associated with fleas. Once allergic, a single flea bite can set off a severe reaction that can last for weeks. Usually, skin lesions are centered around the base of the tail, inside the thighs, underbelly, and sometime around the neck/collar or face.
Question #6: How can I help my dog with allergies?
A high quality whole food diet helps ward off most diseases, just like in humans. Limit their reliance on processed foods like kibble, cans, or freeze-dried and look for fresh prepared, preferably cooked whole food recipes formulated by a veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist. Keep your dog on monthly flea prevention and visit your veterinarian if you suspect environmental allergies.
More Q&A with Dr. Oscar Chavez on the Best Dog Food for Allergies
Dr. Chavez is still with us to answer more of your frequently questions about the best dog food for allergies.
Question #7: What do vets prescribe for dog allergies?
In addition to specialized diets, many of the same classes of medications that are used in people for allergies can be used in pets, but they must be specifically prescribed and dosed by a veterinarian. For example: antihistamines and nutritional supplements. In severe cases, some vets may prescribe topical or systemic steroids, and others may also use injectables that have longer lasting effects and reduce the sensation of itchiness. If the pet has open skin sores or lesions, antibiotics (topical or systemic) may be prescribed.
Question #8: What are the most Common Signs of Food Allergies in Dogs?
It can be difficult to pinpoint whether allergies are due to food or another cause (i.e.: environmental). Sometimes the lesions are around the face and muzzle, or the rear end. Some dogs will scoot due to itching of the rear end. Some will have vomiting, or diarrhea. The only way to properly diagnose a food allergy is to talk to your vet and consider a diet elimination trial. Blood and lab tests are not useful for food allergies.
Question #9: What home remedies can I give my dog for allergies?
Fish oil and a healthy whole food diet set a solid foundation for the skin barrier. Effective flea control will prevent flea allergies and baths every 2-3 weeks can help keep the skin and coat healthy. Avoid giving any home medications, sprays, or medicated shampoos without consulting your veterinarian first.
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Question #10: Can you build up an immunity to dog allergies?
[I’m answering from the perspective of the dog because I cannot answer on human allergies].
Allergies in of themselves are an exaggerated and inappropriate response of the immune system to a usually inert substance (i.e.: food ingredient, pollen, flea bite). Therefore, dogs cannot develop more “immunity” to dog allergies, they are already excessively reacting. There are some allergen desensitization programs that can be considered. Like in people, this involves identifying what the dog is allergic to, and developing a diluted cocktail of allergens to be given as weekly injections until the immune system becomes used to these substances. Success rates for this treatment can be low (50%) and cost and time commitment can be high.
Question #11: Is it possible to get used to dog allergies?
[I’m answering from the perspective of the dog because I cannot answer on human allergies]
Some research shows that young dogs may outgrow some food allergies (like children can too). Otherwise, most environmental or flea allergies worsen over time unless they are effectively addressed.
Question #12: How do you get rid of dog allergies permanently?
[I’m answering from the perspective of the dog because I cannot answer on human allergies]
Just like in people, allergies in dogs can be lifelong and frustrating – you may not be able to get rid of them permanently. However, they may be prevented (i.e. flea allergy), or effectively treated and addressed with some of the techniques above. A high quality whole food diet can also help.
Question #13: Can you be allergic to one dog and not another?
You would have to ask a human doctor. From my experience as a veterinarian, it does seem like some people with dog allergies can react more to certain coat types, for example my skin breaks out with certain short haired breeds (Pitbull, shar-peis, etc.) but otherwise I’m not allergic to dogs.
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Question #14: Can I give my dog Benadryl for allergies?
Yes, but dosing varies based on the weight of your dog. Call your veterinarian and they can usually provide you with the recommended dose for your dog. Also, just like in people, some antihistamines aren’t effective in some dogs, while others can be. Therefore, talk to your vet about trying different options.
The Best Dog Food For Allergies – Your Turn
Are you a dog mom or dad whose dog has suffered with allergies or food intolerance?
What symptoms did your dog display? Was this environmental or dietary in nature, and how did you overcome it?
What do you think of the idea of speaking to your Vet about the best dog food for allergies?
Please join our conversation by leaving a comment.
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